Qi Congyue lived the life of a model Communist Party official. He did not drink or smoke, ate simply, did not play mahjong, dressed in a plain grey suit and did not keep mistresses. But beneath the spartan veneer, Qi was one of the most corrupt officials in Yancheng city, Jiangsu province. From 1988 to March last year, he allegedly took bribes totalling three million yuan (HK$2.7 million). He also has been charged with possession of illegal earnings in cash, gold and jade ornaments, 806,000 yuan and US$9,000 (HK$69,000), the Democracy and Legal System newspaper reported. While other corrupt cadres fritter their ill-gotten gains away, Qi operated as a one-man bank, lending at rates of 20 to 30 per cent a year. He lent a total of 1.6 million yuan to private businessmen, state firms and the public. Qi's crimes started in 1988. By 1992 he had reached the position of chief of the propaganda department of Yancheng city and was a member of the Communist Party's standing committee. He took money from ordinary citizens, heads of private companies, friends, relatives and government organisations. The average bribe was 10,000 yuan. A father who wanted to get his son into a popular primary school gave him 8,000 yuan and Qi arranged it with a two-minute telephone call. In 1997, the head of the city's engineering quality inspection department was under pressure to resign after a wall at a school collapsed due to defective building materials. The man gave Qi US$1,000 and kept his job. A low-ranking official gave Qi cash at Lunar New Year each year, starting with 500 yuan in 1985 and rising to 2,000 yuan in 1997. In May that year, he heard that the Government would announce personnel changes in his department, so he gave Qi an extra 5,000 yuan - and in November he received the promotion he wanted. The head of a private engineering firm in Fujian gave Qi a gold necklace, a gold bar worth 5,000 yuan and a 30,000 yuan loan which Qi never repaid.